A New Phytopia - Visualising the structures of life.
That title may have read as a rather grand statement but put simply without plants, life as we know it would not exist. From food, to fibre, to the air we breathe we are quite dependent on plants. The unique photos above are the babies of many different plants AKA seeds. This work has been created by academic/artist Rob Kesseler in partnership with the Kew Gardens Millenium Seed Bank.
Phytopia reveals a hidden world lying beyond the scope of the human eye. Working in the liminal territory between Art and Science. Rob K
There are many ways this work is special. First is the location, these seeds are live specimens forming a genetic bank of sorts within the Kew Millennium Seed Bank it’s quite a similar initiative to the Svalbard seed bank. Here these seeds remain protected, stocked in numbers to potentially restore plant populations if required.
Second is due to the way they are photographed by using a scanning electron microscope. Which basically uses a beam of electrons instead of light, giving the extremely fine details we can see above. These images then have layers of colour, specific to their mother plant, added to them. Rob describes this artistic process akin to how plants attract insects to attracting an audience.
Finally is the individual characteristics the photos highlight. Each seed has been honed through hundreds of years of evolution, adapting each one to succeed in a particular strategy of dispersal and growth. This brings home the fact that these plant babies are alive and individual as you or me.
Plants babies under microscope = eye & brain candy.
Geographers Erle Ellis and Navin Ramankutty argue we are no longer disturbing natural ecosystems. Instead, we now live in “human systems with natural ecosystems embedded within them.” The long-held barriers between nature and culture are breaking down. It’s no longer us against “Nature.” Instead, it’s we who decide what nature is and what it will be.
A couple weeks ago, I was listening to a story by NPR’s Planet Money team about “Toxie” a toxic asset they had purchased to follow and help tell the story of the recent financial meltdown. One of the mortgages in Toxie was on a home bought for investment in Bradenton, Florida, and the team took a look at housing in the area. Many homes there are empty and have been for years. Huge developments sit partially completed among densely built up neighborhoods and swampland. A guest stated that there were “enough housing lots in Charlotte County to last for more than 100 years”. Boom and bust residential development has drastically affected parts of southwest Florida for decades now, and I spent some time (with the help of Google Earth), looking around the area. With permission from the fine folks at Google, here are a few glimpses at development in southwest Florida.
Around us, life bursts with miracles—a glass of water, a ray of sunshine, a leaf, a caterpillar, a flower, laughter, raindrops..
If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere.
Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles; Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes, and forms; ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap; a brain that ponders a speck of dust as easily as the entire cosmos; a heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings.
When we are tired and feel discouraged by life’s daily struggles, we may not notice these miracles, but they are always there.
The Gemini program was designed as a bridge between the Mercury and Apollo programs, primarily to test equipment and mission procedures in Earth orbit and to train astronauts and ground crews for future Apollo missions. The general objectives of the program included: long duration flights in excess of of the requirements of a lunar landing mission; rendezvous and docking of two vehicles in Earth orbit; the development of operational proficiency of both flight and ground crews; the conduct of experiments in space; extravehicular operations; active control of reentry flight path to achieve a precise landing point; and onboard orbital navigation. Each Gemini mission carried two astronauts into Earth orbit for periods ranging from 5 hours to 14 days. The program consisted of 10 crewed launches, 2 uncrewed launches, and 7 target vehicles, at a total cost of approximately 1,280 million dollars.
Gemini 4 was the second crewed mission of the Gemini series and carried James McDivitt and Edward White on a 4-day, 62-orbit, 98-hr flight from June 3 to June 7, 1965. The mission included the first American spacewalk. The objective of the mission was to test the performance of the astronauts and capsule and to evaluate work procedures, schedules, and flight planning for an extended length of time in space. Secondary objectives included demonstration of extravehicular activity in space, conduct stationkeeping and rendezvous maneuvers, evaluate spacecraft systems, demonstrate the capability to make significant in-plane and out-of-plane maneuvers and use of the maneuvering system as a backup reentry system, and conduct 11 experiments.